Thousands seek shelter as cyclone batters Fiji
December 17, 2012 7:14 PM EST
More than 3,500 people evacuated to emergency shelters in Fiji as the biggest cyclone in 20 years swept across the Pacific island nation on Monday, three days after the storm killed four people and destroyed thousands of homes in nearby Samoa.
Tourist resorts on many of Fiji's palm-fringed islands have been evacuated and authorities warned people to remain in shelter as Tropical Cyclone Evan battered the country, blowing over trees and destroying houses.
Authorities said Cyclone Evan had generated destructive winds, torrential rains and was likely to lead to flooding due to a storm surge as it passes to the north-western side of the main Fiji islands of Vanua Levu and Viti Levu, with wind gusts up to 270 kmh (170 mph).
Fiji's weather bureau said cyclone Evan was rated a category four storm, the second highest level, and was moving only at about 18 kph (11 mph), meaning the destructive winds could last several hours.
Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama ordered public servants to stay at home and he put emergency services on standby. Hospitals and health centres have been closed for all but emergency patients.
Power supplies have also been cut to some areas as a precaution against falling power lines, including in the main tourist town of Nadi. Airlines grounded flights to and from Fiji, stranding about 1,900 visitors in the country.
"I cannot stress enough how serious this is. Every Fijian will be affected but we must take preventative steps now," Bainimarama said.
Residents and businesses stocked up on food and put up shutters to protect shops and offices. Major roads have been closed and authorities are warning that bridges could be swamped by flood waters.
Schools throughout the country were also being used as evacuation centres, with authorities saying more than 3,500 people had sought shelter by late on Monday.
The Fiji Times reported rough seas and ferocious winds had forced a bulk carrier to run aground on a reef near the capital of Suva.
Australia and New Zealand offered support to Fiji ahead of the storm and have search and rescue personnel on standby.
(Reporting by James Grubel; Editing by Robert Birsel)
Most Popular Slideshows
- Prince William & Kate Middleton Caught Flirting In A Countryside Dinner Date [PHOTOS]
- Prince William & Kate Middleton Boards London Train in Casual Disguise, Royal Couple’s Incognito Plan A Huge Hit [PHOTOS]
- Angelina Jolie & Brad Pitt Heads to Malta For New Movie After A Whirlwind French Wedding [PHOTOS]
- 2014 US Open: Hottest Male Tennis Players To Watch [PHOTOS]
Join the Conversation
- Pricey iPhone 6 on Release Date Likely but with 3X Retina Resolution & Mobile Payment Service – Reports
- 5.5-Inch iPhone 6 is iPhone Air on Sept 19 Release Date: 5 Things to Consider Before Buying
- Google Nexus 8 Confirmed as HTC T1 aka Volantis/Flounder with Freshly-Leaked Specs & Features – Reports
- PlayStation 4 Killing Xbox One Costing Microsoft Millions But It's Fine
- Europe, US Next on ISIS’ Hit List, Says Saudi King; Seized ISIS Laptop Reveals Terrifying Bio-Warfare Plans
- iPhone 6 On Release Date To Feature Qualcomm MDM9625M LTE, 1GB RAM, Mobile Payment Deal With AMEX, 1334x750 Display
- Google Can Kill Samsung with Android KitKat and Android One: Here's How